Every Friday, I rank every active Rocket (who sees the floor) based on his performance from the previous week. If you missed the most recent installment, here you go.
12) Isaiah Canaan (Last week: 12)
Canaan picked up three fouls in nine minutes of action against the New Orleans Pelicans, but saw some time in the fourth quarter of a close game. That’s nice. His one shot was a contested three that bricked off the back rim. We’ve yet to see much from the rookie.
11) Greg Smith (Last week: 9)
Smith played 24 minutes in two games this week and in those 24 minutes the Rockets were stomped on, allowing 116.9 points per 100 possessions. This assessment is harsh, but it’s difficult to evaluate a player who hasn’t been able to stay on the floor. And I really like Greg Smith! I think he can help!
10) Ronnie Brewer (Last week: 10)
Brewer is the epitome of a player who murders offense. Except this week the exact opposite happened. No thanks to Brewer, who shot 25% from the floor in 47 total minutes, but the Rockets were hyper-efficient in that time he played. Brewer’s 11.5 net rating was best on the team.
9) Donatas Motiejunas (Last week: 11)
Thanks to Greg Smith’s injury and Dwight Howard’s penchant for foul trouble, Donatas Motiejunas was finally unleashed this week, and the results (on offense) were encouraging. He was Mayor of the Corner early on against Oklahoma City and flashed a few pretty passes in the paint as well.
The Rockets love running a play where Motiejunas comes high to screen for the point guard (usually Aaron Brooks) then, instead of rolling towards the paint, drifts to the wing and immediately sets a screen for a scorer (usually James Harden). It’s a pretty cool secondary action that causes defenses to scramble a bit. Houston ran it against the Hawks and Motiejunas got an open look at the rim.
8) Omri Casspi (Last week: 7)
Most Incredible Fact of the Week: Omri Casspi only played 12 more minutes than Ronnie Brewer. On first glance it cannot be real. But sadly it is. Once a vital member of Houston’s bench, for whatever reason Casspi’s falling out of favor. He scored zero points on zero shots in just six minutes against the Thunder last night. It should be mentioned that Casspi shot 62.5% from downtown last week (on eight attempts, but still).
7) Aaron Brooks (Last week: 8)
I have more confidence in a three by Aaron Brooks than just about anybody on the team right now. He nailed three bigs ones against the Thunder and was over 40% on threes for the week. He turns it over as much as he finds someone for an assist, though, which isn’t the best attribute to be found in a backup point guard.
6) Francisco Garcia (Last week: 5)
Another week, another highlight reel of inconsistent shooting from Francisco Garcia. In five games this week, Garcia averaged 2.2 (!!!!) points per 17 minutes. He still doesn’t contribute anywhere else on the floor. Now midway through the season, Garcia’s minutes aren’t deserved.
5) Jeremy Lin (Last week: 4)
He shot 14.3% from the three-point line this week, but still managed to average a solid dozen points per contest. Lin had an extremely rough go against the Thunder and Reggie Jackson, scoring just six points in a little under 25 minutes of action. His previous four outings were impressive, though. He feasted on Jordan Crawford and the Boston Celtics and laid out a sleeping bag on the free-throw line against the Wizards.
4) Chandler Parsons (Last week: 6)
I’d like to use this space to ask a question. Which player do you believe will make more money as an unrestricted free agent: Chandler Parsons or Lance Stephenson? The similarities between the two nearly end with where they were drafted, but both commandeer second units with a confidence and superiority that helps give their teams a boost.
(I personally think the answer is Stephenson—he’s more athletic, younger, and seemingly has higher upside, but it’s close.)
3) James Harden (Last week: 1)
2) Dwight Howard (Last week: 2)
Before last night’s loss to the Thunder, the Houston Rockets outscored their opponents by 17.3 points per 100 possessions in the 183 minutes Dwight Howard played this week. Their defense, especially, was “best in the league” dominant.
Unfortunately, that number feels more a case of small sample size theatre. He still averaged 18 and nine on the week, but Howard wandered through extended stretches in three of the weeks five games.
He tortured his former teammate, Marcin Gortat, to within an inch of his life in Washington, and that was good to see, but Howard’s overall energy and effort levels were severely lacking against the Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and New Orleans Pelicans. He struggled with when the right time was to pick up a foul, and when the right time was to back off. It felt like he chose wrong repeatedly, and it cost him.
1) Terrence Jones (Last week: 3)
This week, averaging 15.6 points and 11.6 rebounds in five games, Terrence Jones made me think long and hard about how good he can be. He’s vulnerable on the pick-and-roll, and isn’t much of a rim protector even though he has the wingspan, athleticism, and instincts to thrive there. But Jones has been so impressive in so many different areas. A ton of his production comes off action by his teammates, but Jones is also showing tiny little flashes that make you think he’ll someday be a legitimate option. (Those running right-handed floaters, for instance.)
He’s not a bad shooter from the outside and doesn’t look completely lost on drives to the hoop after he blows past a closeout. Away from the ball is where he’s used most often, and if he understood spacing dynamics a bit more Houston’s starting lineup would be one of the league’s most unstoppable.
Michael Pina has bylines at Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.